Justia Kentucky Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiff sued the doctor (Defendant) who twice performed surgery on Plaintiff to repair a fracture, alleging (1) Defendant made mistakes during the initial surgery that resulted in the failure of the fracture to heal, and (2) following the second surgery, the doctor failed to timely identify an infection, which necessitated two additional surgeries. A trial ensued. The judge declared a mistrial because Defendant had mentioned insurance several times in violation of a court order. After a second trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the doctor. The court entered an order granting Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions given Defendant’s “contemptuous conduct” in the first trial and the fact that Defendant compounded his conduct in the second trial. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial but affirmed the imposition of sanctions against Defendant. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and vacated the trial court’s order imposing sanctions on Defendant, holding (1) the trial court did not err when it denied Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial; and (2) the trial court erred in failing to notify Defendant that it was finding him in contempt and whether the contempt was civil or criminal. View "Jefferson v. Eggemeyer" on Justia Law

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Appellant entered an Alford plea to one count of murder. Before sentencing, Appellant submitted a motion to withdraw his plea, arguing that his counsel deceived him when she informed him that he could withdraw his plea at any time before sentencing and that his plea was involuntarily entered. After a hearing, the trial court denied the motion. On appeal, Appellant argued that the trial court erred by resolving the plea issue without taking evidence and without appointing conflict-free counsel. The Supreme court vacated the judgment and the order denying Appellant’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea, holding (1) an actual conflict existed in this case, and an evidentiary hearing should have been held at which Appellant’s attorney’s testimony would have been necessary; and (2) the error created a manifest injustice. Remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Zapata v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted for having assaulted by neglect a severely disabled young man who lived with her. The Court of Appeals effectively dismissed the indictment against Defendant for assault, concluding (1) contrary to Ky. Rev. Stat. 501.030(1), the Commonwealth failed to show that Defendant had a duty to care for the young man; and (2) therefore, the circuit court erred by denying Defendant’s motion for a directed verdict of acquittal. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Court of Appeals did not err in concluding that the Commonwealth did not properly plead its case against Defendant. Defendant, however, was not entitled to a directed verdict. Further, reinstatement of the assault conviction was not appropriate. Instead, the Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s judgment convicting Defendant of assault and remanded for additional proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. Mitchell" on Justia Law
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Defendant was arrested for operating a motor vehicle on a DUI-suspended license. Defendant was charged with a Class D felony under the penalty-enhancement provision in Ky. Rev. Stat. 189A.090(2)(c) because this was his third such offense in less than three years. Defendant challenged the enhancement by collaterally attacking his earlier convictions, arguing that his guilty pleas in those cases were invalid under Boykin v. Alabama. The circuit court rejected the challenge. Defendant conditionally pleaded guilty. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that there was insufficient evidence showing that Defendant’s prior guilty pleas complied with the Boykin requirements. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated Defendant’s conviction, holding that Defendant’s prior convictions were not subject to collateral attack on Boykin matters in this case. View "Commonwealth v. Fugate" on Justia Law
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Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E) sought a permit authorizing it to discharge certain pollutants into the Ohio River in conjunction with the operation of its recently expended generating facility. The Commonwealth of Kentucky, Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Water issued the permit. The circuit court vacated the permit. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed and reinstated LG&E’s permit, holding (1) in vacating the permit, the circuit court and Court of Appeals misapplied controlling federal law; and (2) the Cabinet’s determination that the LG&E permit should proceed under 40 C.F.R. 125.3(c)(1) was a reasonable interpretation of the regulation. View "Louisville Gas & Electric Co. v. Kentucky Waterways Alliance" on Justia Law

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Marshall Parker sought an award of benefits for a back injury he received during the course of his employment with Webster County Coal. An administrative law judge (ALJ) awarded benefits for the back injury. However, the ALJ found that, pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. 342.730(4), Webster County Coal did not have liability for payment of income benefits in addition to the two years of temporary total disability income benefits Parker had already received. The Workers’ Compensation Board and Court of Appeals affirmed. Parker appealed, arguing that section 342.730(4) is unconstitutional because, under the statute, injured older workers who qualify for normal old-age Social Security retirement benefits are treated differently from injured older workers who do not qualify. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding that section 342.730(4) is constitutionally infirm on equal protection grounds because there is no rational basis or substantial and justifiable reason for the disparate treatment of two groups of workers. View "Parker v. Webster County Coal, LLC" on Justia Law

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After a jury trial, Defendant was convicted of murder. Defendant had recently become a “fully-patched” member of the Iron Horsemen motorcycle club at the time of the murder. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the trial court (1) did not err by permitting increased security during trial; (2) did not err by admitting testimony regarding the culture of the Iron Horsemen; (3) erred in permitting alleged ex parte communication between the Commonwealth and the trial court, but the error was harmless; and (4) did not abuse its discretion by overruling Defendant’s motion for a mistrial. View "Rigdon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
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An oversized tractor-trailer collided with the school bus Leonard Collins was driving on a portion of highway meandering across Pine Mountain, resulting in Collins’s death. Sycilla Collins (Appellant) filed a claim with the Board of Claims alleging negligence on the part of the Commonwealth of Kentucky Transportation Cabinet’s Department of Highways. The Board concluded that the Department of Highways was not negligent in performing its duty to enforce vehicle size restrictions. The circuit court reversed, concluding that the Board’s ruling was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Department of Highways did not owe Appellant a statutory or regulatory duty to enforce the vehicle size restrictions found within Ky. Rev. Stat. 189.221. View "Collins v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
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After a jury trial, Appellant was convicted of second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree wanton endangerment, and third-degree arson. Appellant appealed, arguing, primarily, that the trial court erred in refusing to instruct the jury on voluntarily intoxication under Ky. Rev. Stat. 501.080(1). The Supreme Court reversed the second-degree assault conviction and otherwise affirmed, holding (1) the evidence was sufficient to entitle Defendant to a voluntary intoxication instruction, and the failure to include the instruction was reversible error as to the second-degree assault conviction; and (2) the remaining convictions’ required mental states cannot be negated by voluntary intoxication, and therefore, those convictions and sentences were not in error. View "King v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law
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This personal injury suit arose from a 2007 trip-and-fall at the Speedway SuperAmerica filling-station in Manchester. After a bench trial, the circuit court found for Teresa and Randy Grubb (together, Plaintiffs) and against Speedway SuperAmerica LLC, the store’s owner, and Roxanne Smith, the store’s manager at the time of the accident (collectively, Defendants). The court of appeals reversed and remanded for entry of a defense judgment, concluding that the trial court erred by failing to apply the “open and obvious” doctrine under the circumstances of this case. On discretionary review, the Supreme Court remanded to the court of appeals for reconsideration in light of the Court’s recent attempts to modernize the open and obvious doctrine and to harmonize it with tort law’s shift to a regime of comparative negligence. On remand, the court of appeals stood by its prior ruling. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the court of appeals read recent precedent too narrowly; (2) the trial court erred by failing to consider whether Teresa shared responsibility for the accident and by failing to find that she did; and (3) the trial court erred in finding Smith jointly and severally liable with Speedway on Plaintiffs’ claims. View "Grubb v. Smith" on Justia Law
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